As Man City and Guardiola march towards the title, Mourinho’s Spurs limp along with fading top-four hopes

England… It’s not all bad news for Jose Mourinho. The Tottenham Hotspur coach can still say he was the last to win over Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola, although that recognition may not have brought much comfort as Spurs return to London on Saturday after a 3-0 defeat at Premier League leader Manchester City.

But with Tottenham now in the top four after their fourth defeat in five league games this season, the memories of their 2-0 home win over City last November are fading, giving Mourinho at least the right to say he still knows how to beat the best. Unfortunately for Mourinho, that is exactly what his rivalry with Guardiola has become: memories that are fading. While Guardiola wins trophies and breaks records, then threatens to repeat everything at City, Mourinho is stuck in a battle with himself to prove he is not yesterday’s man. Victories like this one last November still count for Mourinho.

If he beats his former rival in the Carabao Cup final in April (his 1-0 win over Manchester United in October 2016 is the last time Guardiola was eliminated in the competition), Mourinho will have won another trophy.

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Guardiola has won the trophy in each of the last three seasons. Two years ago, it was the first game of a home game and City will do it again this year. They could even win the Champions League. And by 16. Wins in a row in any league with this win against Spurs, who can seriously bet against City by sweeping the board this season?

But it is the bright path that awaits us: Trophies and history are hidden around every corner.

There was a time when Mourinho followed a similar path during his first spell at Chelsea and then Internazionale, but now it’s all about Guardiola. It was the 25th. The clash between the two men in all competitions for all clubs and Guardiola won 11 of them against Mourinho’s seven, with seven wins. For the sake of Mourinho, let’s not talk about counting trophies.

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Saturday at the Etihad, Mourinho’s team dominated from start to finish – except in the 14th minute. The home side could have won by a huge margin in the 57th minute when Harry Kane fired a free kick over the crossbar of the stadium.

A fresh team against a very tired team, Mourinho said after the match. But a team that started the game very well.

I’m very, very happy with the attitude of the players. A few days ago, I had guys on the field that played for two hours and they gave it their all.

Mourinho at least showed ambition in the starting line-up by fielding four strikers with Kane, Eric Lamela, Son Heung-min and Lucas Moura, but it didn’t make much difference. He and his team have yet to find an answer to City’s attacking drive, with Ilkay Gündogan scoring twice more after Rodri’s penalty for Liverpool last week.

The rivalry between Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho began to play out in the Manchester City manager’s favour. Getty

But there was never a repeat of the victory at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, where Mourinho’s side took the lead with 20 points from nine games. Since then, they have scored 16 of a possible 42 points, dropping to eighth place.

As for City, they won 13 of their 15 championship games and drew two after losing against Spurs. They were eleventh at the time, are now seven points clear of second-placed Leicester City and have played one game more than Brendan Rodgers’ side. Manchester United can reduce the deficit to five points by winning at West Bromwich Albion on Sunday, but City play Everton on Wednesday and a win at Goodison Park would certainly spell the end of the title race this season.

The concern of the chasing pack is that City won this race very comfortably, both on offense and defense. They didn’t have to make the first pass to take three points, and the win was achieved without the injured Kevin De Bruyne and with Ruben Diaz and Sergio Aguero just sitting on the bench.

City’s first goal came in the 22nd minute. Rhodri won 1-0 from the penalty spot in the 57th minute after Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg had cleared Gundogan off his line.

A modern punishment, Mourinho said. The modern penalty kick is the one where even the touch of a nail can be a penalty kick.

Davinson Sanchez sent City away in the 42nd minute. Gündogan blocked a shot from close range in the second minute, but the latter had a good chance early in the second half when he beat Hugo Lloris with a tame left-footed shot. Gündogan’s second goal in the 66th minute. The German international distinguished himself in the 42nd minute when he controlled a long shot from goalkeeper Ederson, passed Sanchez and fired past Lloris.

At that point the match was already won, and the race for the title has the same sense of inevitability. City could lose again before the end of the season, but it’s hard to imagine losing by seven or eight points.

City and Guardiola are on the rise, but Mourinho and Spurs are lagging behind. The Spurs boss has nothing to smile about at the moment, except that he is the last man standing to beat Guardiola.

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